These Days

These Days

4.7 14
by Vince Gill

Apparently Vince Gill didn't set out to cut and release four albums containing 43 original songs all at once, but as he and some indefatigable musician mates got it rolling in the studio, the songs started piling up. Cutting across genre lines from country to rock to pop to gospel, These Days is not only one of the most audacious projects in country musicSee more details below


Apparently Vince Gill didn't set out to cut and release four albums containing 43 original songs all at once, but as he and some indefatigable musician mates got it rolling in the studio, the songs started piling up. Cutting across genre lines from country to rock to pop to gospel, These Days is not only one of the most audacious projects in country music history but also one of the best -- any one of these albums on its own would be considered among the finest of the year.

Workin' On a Big Chill: The Rockin' Record might also have been subtitled The Rockin' Soul Record, because it plants itself in greasy southern soul and pretty much stays there for 10 songs. A terrific cheating song, "Nothin' for a Broken Heart," features a salty guest turn by Gill's Notorious Cherry Bombs partner Rodney Crowell, and there's an abundance of horn charts influenced by the Memphis/Muscle Shoals axis, as well as chanting female choruses and slinky grooves that might as well have "Allman Brothers" written all over them, especially on the powerhouse workout titled "Bet It All on You." This disc introduces the dramatis personae for the whole project: Al Anderson sits in on guitar and pens more than a few songs with Gill; the guitarists are a Murderer's Row of pickers, numbering Richard Bennett and Steuart Smith along with Anderson (sometimes all playing on the same number, with Gill, a pretty fair picker himself, adding acoustic and electric throughout); and Michael Rhodes handles the bass. Typical of the surprises on the collection, "Son of a Ramblin' Man" (another Allmans connection, anyone?) is a herky-jerky, bluesy groove featuring Del McCoury on vocals and members of his band doing their thing in the midst of some familiar twin guitar solos, a moment that is about as far from bluegrass as the McCourys have ever ventured.

On The Reasons Why, Gill goes from "What You Give Away" (bolstered by a powerful 10-voice choir and an urgent guest vocal courtesy of Sheryl Crow) to a mellow saloon song, "Faint of Heart," that's strictly a closing time come-on, complete with a silky, sensuous guest vocal by Diana Krall, who engages in some cool give-and-take with Gill and adds her own spare, bluesy piano for the proper late-night glow. Later, Trisha Yearwood shows up to really lay the hurt on a sorrowful, jazz-tinged heartbreaker, "This Memory of You." Subtitled The Groovy Record, this disc features some of the most complex emotional scenarios of the set, many far from groovy, but they hurt so good.

Based on the evidence provided by Disc 3, Some Things Never Get Old, subtitled The Country & Western Record, Gill should have been on the scene in the late '40s through the '50s, when he would have fit in perfectly with Bob Wills, Ray Price, Hank Thompson, and Ernest Tubb. This is the prime-time disc in the bunch, so right on the money in every aspect. With Patty Loveless, Gill effortlessly cuts to the heart of the matter on a honky-tonk tear-jerker "Out of My Mind"; the delightful Ray Price-style shuffle "This New Heartache," also manages to cop some lyric quotations from Buck Owens; Gill's aching, graceful waltz "I Can't Let Go" soars with an ethereal harmony from Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski; straightforward and jubilantly rocking, "Don't Pretend with Me" is so true to Ernest Tubb's style of western swing that you can almost smell the sawdust and beer; "Sweet Little Corrina," is something the Everly Brothers might have cut, and indeed, Phil Everly drops by to add a familiar harmony vocal, with a guitar solo that would honor Chet Atkins. Emmylou Harris, Lee Ann Womack, and John Anderson (adding some macho assertiveness to Gill's "Take This Country Back," a furious complaint on the dearth of real country music today) all make memorable contributions.

Although subtitled The Acoustic Record, Little Brother is Gill's bluegrass album -- acoustic, yes, but bluegrass right up to the final two numbers, both being sensitive ballads: "Little Brother" and a somber "Almost Home," with Guy Clark enacting the father part of a mysterious prodigal's return song. Elsewhere, high energy rules the day, from the opening, Flatt & Scruggs-style gospel barnburner "All Prayed Up" to the Del McCoury Band's authenticating the earthy heartbreaker "Cold Gray Light of Day," as well as the rowdy road song "Give Me the Highway," both featuring Del's distinctive keening harmonies. Not the least of this disc's virtues is Gill's daughter Jenny singing a captivating high harmony with her dad on "A River Like You."

It's a journey like no other, These Days, and more than worth the price of admission. Gill's sprawling set says something vital about contemporary country music: how enduring and vital its traditions are, and how the past can inform the present in a way that remains ever timely and timeless.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
As 2006 nears its end, no one can argue that the world of country music isn't, at this moment, the most adventurous in the mainstream pop music industry and that Nash Vegas is taking more chances on its acts as the rest of the biz relies more on narrowing things into smaller and smaller niches that can easily be hyped and digested. Sure, as always, artist's images and many recordings are calculated to score big as in any pop industry. The difference is in approach. The country-listening audience/demographic has widened considerably; therefore, there is a need -- as well as an opportunity -- for experimentation to see what sticks. This is the most exciting the music's been since Willie and Waylon hit the charts in the '70s, or perhaps to be a bit more fair, when Garth Brooks turned them upside down in the early '90s. Country music's fan base is growing because it still relies largely on radio, and video channels like CMT and GAC, both of which are very supportive of directors and artists taking artistic chances in the way they choose to dramatize, animate, and portray songs -- check the work of the brilliant director Trey Fanjoy just for starters. Country's latest audience grew up on rock & roll, MTV (when it still played videos), soul, blues, funk, early rap, and in some cases even punk. And while the marketing approach is still singles-driven, country music artists and producers, as well as the labels that house them, are still concerned with the "album" either as a whole, or as a completely crafted collection of varying singles (in this case meaning "good songs"). What's more, these folks still buy CDs (titles are readily available at the local in mega-marts and department stores) and don't rely on the internet as much as pop and rock fans do for information. Given the long run of the Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way at number one on the country and Billboard charts, one can't simply dismiss the music as being the religious right's stronghold or pop culture front for "traditional family values" anymore, either, though admittedly there's plenty of that around. In the 21st century it's country music and hip hop -- not rock -- that have been taking on the topics of race, class, basic human dignity and diversity, more than any other popular (chart measured) American musics. This current mindset in both the Nash Vegas offices and in the fan base is what makes Vince Gill's These Days, a 43-song, four-disc set, possible. Gill had been planning on making a standard single-disc record in 2006. He wanted it to be musically diverse. Given his long career as songwriter, picker, producer, singer, recording and performing artist, he had a right to expect his label MCA Nashville to go along with his choices. What he didn't count on was recording 31 songs with various groups of musicians and not knowing what to do with them. He approached Luke Lewis, the label's president, with an idea he got from the Beatles multi-release-per-year tactic (the same one everybody used in the '60s), which was to issue three albums approximately three months apart in a single calendar year. Lewis, visionary that he is, went one better. He encouraged Gill to go back into the studio and cut enough quality material for a fourth disc and release them all as a box set. Unlike most boxes on the shelf, this one retails for a fairly modest $29.98 -- less than eight dollars a disc -- an attractive package in time for the holidays. However, adventurous Nashville music industry or not, it all eventually comes down to the quality of the music after all, right? Yes. These four discs are thematically arranged: there's an acoustic bluegrass-flavored record called "Little Brother" (disc four), a rock record called "Workin' on a Big Chill" (disc one), a trad country & western album called "Some Things Never Get Old" (disc three), and a modern soul and jazz-inflected disc of ballads and more gentle pieces called "The Reason Why" (disc two). What's more, though Gill wrote or co-wrote everything here, he called in numerous guests to help him out. These include Gretchen Wilson, his wife Amy Grant, daugher Jenny Gill, Bonnie Raitt, Rodney Crowell, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, pedal steel guitar boss Buddy Emmons, Phil Everly, Rebecca Lynn Howard, the Del McCoury Band, Patty Loveless, Emmylou Harris, John Anderson, Katrina Elam, Lee Ann Womack, LeAnn Rimes, Guy Clark, Trisha Yearwood, Bekka Bramlett, and Michael McDonald. The end result is a magical mystery tour through Gill's own wildly varying aesthetic interests and his uncanny ability to pull off his diverse ideas on tape. These Days is not only a showcase of Gill's multidimensional musical persona, but a virtual treatise on the expansive, open-minded, under the umbrella viewpoint that has taken over Nashville in the current era. "Workin' on a Big Chill" lives up to its name as a rock record as reflected in the tunes, the beats, and the instrumentation. The title track alone, with Gill's own considerable bluesed-out guitar-slinging skills burning down the house, punches a hole in expectations; the track also includes a Wurlitzer, a B-3 and Bramlett's killer backing vocals. "Love's Standin'" was written with co-producer John Hobbs (Justin Niebank and Gill, of course, also inhabit these chairs), and the wonderfully iconoclastic songwriter and producer Joe Henry (it could have been a smash for Fleetwood Mac), and showcases the sheer white soul backing chorus of Bramlett (who was a member of the latter day Fleetwood Mac), Gene Miller, and Gill. Wilson guests on "Cowboy Up," is more an upscale blues tune than a country song and proves Wilson can sing anything she wants and belongs where she is -- at the top. While there isn't a weak moment on this set, some of the other standouts include the popping "Sweet Thing," with a full-on horn section, the Jerry Lee Lewis-inspired "Nothin for a Broken Heart," with Crowell, and the utterly sexy and soulful country rocker "The Rhythm of the Pourin' Rain," with Bramlett. The only complaint here is that there isn't more of this material: four CDs of rock & roll tracks would have been welcome, and if rock radio were worth a damn Gill would easily crossover with a couple of these songs. With its subdued tone, and generally slicker productions that include strings, some muted synthesizers, jazzy arrangements, and pop music stylistic tropes, one might think that "The Reason Why: The Groovy Record" would be the least desirable here. Not so. From the opening cut, "What You Don't Say," with Rimes and a full-on string section with ringing pedal steel, Gill proves he is an American pop songwriter par excellence. If all the music on the charts was done this well, with this much passion and soul and pomp, radio would never have lost its appeal. This is the album in the set that reveals the depth of Gill's craft as a songwriter. The early rock & roll waltz trappings and vibes, as well as distorted piano on the title cut with Krauss, is a gorgeous love song with some of Gill's finest vocals on tape. Period. "Rock of Your Love" could have been featured on any of Raitt's latter recordings, and that's a compliment. The slow, dirty guitar line and Raitt's R&B slow burning voice carry it home. Where Gill uses guest vocalists -- female vocalists have always provided a wise counterpoint to his own husky tenor -- the tunes work so well most could be singles. Check "What You Give Away," with Crow, and "The Memory of You," with Yearwood. They're solid; full of honest emotion and pop brilliance. The beautiful love song and gospel tune, "Tell Me One Time About Jesus," with Grant, and "Time To Carry On," with Jenny Gill, are excellent album tracks and give depth, dimension and warmth to this set and are indispensable to it. The duet with Krall is the greatest chance Gill could take. He works in her idiom -- and, of course, she plays that wonderful piano of hers -- and pulls it off with grace and aplomb in the same way Tom Waits pulled off his duets with Crystal Gayle on the soundtrack for One from the Heart. "Some Things Never Get Old" is subtitled "The Country & Western Record." This is an important distinction because what Gill has assembled here is nothing short of a honky tonk set. Though Gill's voice is a little smooth and high, it hardly matters because he's got the two things that count most on an old-school C&W set: the songs and the band. With Emmons on pedal steel (he's one of the great sonic and stylistic innovators on the instrument) guitarist Billy Joe Walker, Jr., fiddle boss Stuart Duncan, and a slew of backing vocalists who include Dawn Sears, Liana Manis, Jon Randall, Andrea Zonn, and Wes Hightower, as well as his core band, he's in the pocket. The music here collects styles from hardcore honky tonk, countrypolitan, late-night loving and torch songs done as only country singers can, and of course, hillbilly anthems. Some of the top-notch tracks here include "Out of My Mind," with Patty Loveless, the title cut, "Sweet Little Corrina" with Everly (which harks back to those classic Warner Brothers Everly sides), "If I Can Make Mississippi" with Womack, the rowdy good ole boy outlaw anthem, "Take This Country Back," a duet with the truly incomparable John Anderson. This leaves, finally, "Little Brother, The Acoustic Record." True; some fans of country -- especially modern country, may have a harder time with this disc because it is both a bluegrass record full of banjos, dobros, mandolins, white Southern gospel, and mountain music -- and simply recorded country ballads. Fans of Gill's shouldn't be surprised; his membership in the Grand Ole Opry, his deep reverence for this tradition, and his ability to write, play, and sing in it like an old master, -- and his previous recordings featuring these qualities -- qualify him to indulge that Muse. But Gill's approach, as old-school in thinking as it may be, uses both the music's early reliance on blues and folk styles of the British Isles as a way of expressing the mountain tradition and also the modern scholarship and musical innovations informing it. He is accompanied by the Del McCoury Band on a couple of selections here -- "Cold Gray Light of Gone," "A River Like You," with Jenny Gill, "Ace Up Your Pretty Sleeve," co-written with the great and criminally under-noticed Mark Germino, and "Give Me the Highway" -- but his own takes on country are actually quite creative in his interpretation on the form. But the chiller here is "Girl" with Rebecca Lynn Howard. Here, the deep, high lonesome sound is informed by all of the early folk musics that came before it, and Gill gives them all free reign as this tune wafts from the Appalachian mountain country to Celtic, Irish, and Scottish meadows and coastlines. And although the set's final cut, "Almost Home," with Guy Clark, has no commercial potential, it's a fitting way to close an album; it's a storyteller's tune, one where Clark speaks in that age-old wizened rogue manner of his, and helps to create a myth of near-epic proportion. What it all adds up to is that this is Gill's masterwork. It's an exhaustive, profound, fun and fulfilling set that not only gives fans something to delight in, but goes wide and if given half a chance could and would attract many new ones. It is one of the major recordings not only of 2006, but of the decade so far -- in any genre. This is the treatment a seasoned artist like Gill deserves, and along with the benefit and support of being able to indulge in such a project, it lives up to the responsibility of delivering the goods in abundance. This is yet another example that the new media-savvy form of country music introduced by Brooks in the '90s has yielded something far more interesting and exciting than some folks are willing to accept, and yet still others are able to believe.
Billboard - Kristina Tunzi
There's a lot to love here and picking a favorite is nearly impossible, but Gill's duet with Diana Krall on "Faint of Heart" evokes images of an intimate performance in a dark, smoky bar that draws the listener right in.
San Francisco Chronicle - Joel Selvin
There's something wonderful about this creative outpouring.... A remarkably ambitious display of [Gill's] abundant abilities.
Los Angeles Daily News
Unprecedented.... Pop music, currently bogged down in a period ruled by marketing and packaging, would benefit from more of this kind of thinking.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Mca Nashville


Disc 1

  1. Workin' on a Big Chill
  2. Love's Standin'
  3. Cowboy Up  - Gretchen Wilson
  4. Sweet Thing
  5. Bet It All on You
  6. Nothin' for a Broken Heart
  7. Son of a Ramblin' Man
  8. Smilin' Song
  9. The Rhythm of the Pourin' Rain
  10. Nothin' Left to Say

Disc 2

  1. What You Don't Say  - LeAnn Rimes
  2. The Reason Why
  3. The Rock of Your Love
  4. What You Give Away
  5. Faint of Heart  - Diana Krall
  6. Time to Carry on  - Jenny Gill
  7. No Easy Way
  8. This Memory of You
  9. How Lonely Looks
  10. Tell Me One More Time About Jesus
  11. Everything and Nothing  - Katrina Elam
  12. Which Way Will You Go
  13. These Days

Disc 3

  1. This New Heartache
  2. The Only Love
  3. Out of My Mind
  4. The Sight of Me Without You
  5. I Can't Let Go  - Dan Tyminski
  6. Don't Pretend With Me
  7. Some Things Never Get Old
  8. Sweet Little Corrina
  9. If I Can Make Mississippi  - Lee Ann Womack
  10. Take This Country Back

Disc 4

  1. All Prayed Up
  2. Cold Gray Light of Gone  -  Del McCoury Band
  3. A River Like You  - Jenny Gill
  4. Ace Up Your Pretty Sleeve
  5. Molly Brown
  6. Girl  - Rebecca Lynn Howard
  7. Give Me the Highway  -  Del McCoury Band
  8. Sweet Augusta Darlin'
  9. Little Brother
  10. Almost Home

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Vince Gill   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Mandolin,Electric Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus,12-string Guitar,Baritone (Vocal),Soloist,Guitar Effects,Guitar (Resonator),Vocal Harmony
Jerry Douglas   Dobro
Buddy Emmons   Steel Guitar
Alison Krauss   Vocals,Vocal Harmony,Guest Appearance
Del McCoury   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals,Tenor (Vocal),Guest Appearance
John Anderson   Vocals
Guy Clark   Vocals
Rodney Crowell   Vocals
Emmylou Harris   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Patty Loveless   Vocals,Vocal Harmony,Guest Appearance
Trisha Yearwood   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Amy Grant   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Michael McDonald   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Bonnie Raitt   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Phil Everly   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Sheryl Crow   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Eric Darken   Percussion,Chimes,Tambourine,Bells,Vibes
Dawn Sears   Vocal Harmony
Eddie Bayers   Drums
Bekka Bramlett   Vocals,Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony,Guest Appearance
Mike Bub   Upright Bass
Chad Cromwell   Drums,Tambourine
Mark Douthit   Tenor Saxophone
Stuart Duncan   Fiddle
Paul Franklin   Dobro,Steel Guitar
Carl Gorodetzky   Concert Master
Barry Green   Trombone
Mike Haynes   Trumpet
John Hobbs   Piano,Hammond Organ,Choir, Chorus,fender rhodes,Wurlitzer
Jim Hoke   Harmonica
Jim Horn   Horn
John Hughey   Steel Guitar
Rob McCoury   Banjo
Ronnie McCoury   Mandolin
Gene Miller   Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Doug Moffet   Baritone Saxophone
Nashville String Machine   Strings
Justin Niebank   Choir, Chorus
William Owsley   Background Vocals
Michael Rhodes   Bass,Upright Bass
Steuart Smith   Electric Guitar
Dan Tyminski   Vocals,Vocal Harmony,Guest Appearance
Billy Joe Walker   Electric Guitar
Pete Wasner   Synthesizer,Piano,Hammond Organ,Electric Piano,Wurlitzer,Hammond B3
Jeff White   Acoustic Guitar,Background Vocals,Tenor (Vocal),Vocal Harmony
Andrea Zonn   Vocal Harmony
Diana Krall   Piano,Vocals
Charlie Cushman   Banjo
Kim Keyes   Vocal Harmony
Lisa Cochran   Background Vocals
LeAnn Rimes   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Jon Randall   Vocal Harmony
Billy Thomas   Drums,Vocal Harmony
Lee Ann Womack   Vocals,Vocal Harmony,Guest Appearance
Jimmy Cox   Hammond Organ
Leslie Satcher   Vocal Harmony
Tom Britt   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar,Gut String Guitar
Wes Hightower   Vocal Harmony
Tom Bukovac   Electric Guitar
Rebecca Lynn Howard   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Desmond Pringle   Choir, Chorus
Benny Garcia   Choir, Chorus
Gretchen Wilson   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Katrina Elam   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Drea Rhenee   Choir, Chorus
Jenny Gill   Vocals,Vocal Harmony,Guest Appearance
Sonya Issacs   Tenor (Vocal)
Calvin Nowell   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

Guy Clark   Duet
Rodney Crowell   Duet
Craig Allen   Art Direction
Neal Cappellino   Engineer
Terry Christian   Engineer
Vince Gill   Producer,Audio Production
John Hobbs   Producer,Audio Production
Jim Horn   Horn Arrangements
Steve Marcantonio   Engineer
Justin Niebank   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Michael Omartian   Horn Arrangements
Diana Krall   Duet
Jay Orr   Liner Notes
Drew Bollman   Engineer
Otto Kitsinger   Composer
Leslie Satcher   Composer
Tia Sillers   Composer
Terry Elam   Management
Larry Fitzgerald   Management
Mark Hartley   Management
Adam Ayan   Mastering
William Matthews   Art Direction,Cover Painting

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